Cancelled games have a lore of their own and remain the subject of much speculation and myth, whether it is Sonic Xtreme on the SEGA Saturn or the Nintendo 64DD Mother 3. The Xbox is currently on its third generation (not counting the hardware revisions) and in such short time it has also amassed a library of cancelled games, a fascinating selection of “what could have been”. Some titles were cancelled in favour of upcoming Xbox hardware, such as when Kameo: Elements of Power was cancelled for Xbox in favour of Xbox 360, or when Crimson Dragon was cancelled for the Xbox 360 in favour of Xbox One. This list looks at five Xbox games that were cancelled, whether notably or unceremoniously, and could have been great additions to the Xbox library.
Mistwalker walked in with all the momentum in the world when they signed on for the Xbox 360 to give the console a much-needed Eastern flavour. Two great RPGs emerged from this: Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and a trifecta was to follow in the form of Cry On.
This innovative action RPG would involve a young girl and a Golem as they navigate environments featuring a mix of combat and puzzle-solving. Mistwalker set quite the bar with Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and early concept artwork and trailers indicated that Cry On was going to be an artistic stunner with unique gameplay.
For whatever reason Microsoft lost all interest in the game, and Mistwalker in general, once they got their grubby little hands on the then assumed PlayStation 3 exclusive, Final Fantasy XIII. Although a completely different style of game, Cry On probably would have ended up being something like The Last Guardian on PlayStation 4.
Too soon? This one still stings.
An incredibly ambitious game which ultimately became far too ambitious for its own good, it was so, so close to being realised too before Microsoft pulled the rug from underneath.
Scalebound was Monster Hunter meets Devil May Cry meets Xenoblade Chronicles in what was destined to be an absolute epic of a Japanese RPG; a game which would have given the Xbox One much needed love from an otherwise alienated audience. For rather corporate reasons the game was abruptly cancelled, much to the heartbreak of many who put their hopes and dreams in it.
Ironically, much like the aftermath of Cry On’s cancellation, the tragic cancellation of Scalebound was followed by unceremonious digital releases of most of Square-Enix’s JRPG catalogue, from Nier Automata to Final Fantasy X/X-2. Indeed, why reinvent the wheel with your own JRPG when you can just nick one from PlayStation?
Following the demise of the Dreamcast, the Xbox almost providentially became the unofficial successor to SEGA’s final stand. With games like Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, Panzer Dragoon, Otogi, and Gunvalkyrie, it was no wonder why the Xbox became the SEGA destination. Even then Team Ninja boss Tomonobu Itagaki (Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive) would state on many occasions how the Xbox reminded him of the Saturn and Dreamcast.
Illbleed was a rather inventive and quirky survival horror title on the Dreamcast which, in addition to all the gore and jump scares, had an innovative mechanic which made use of psychological warfare. This game made you manage the mental state of the protagonist, and the more paranoid and freaked-out the character got, the more intense the horror became. It was a fun yet genuinely intense horror experience which encouraged players to keep coming back for new scares.
An enhanced and expanded port was in the works for Xbox, and it could have given the platform a much-needed edge in the survival horror space which the GameCube and PlayStation 2 were clearly leading in. Sadly, Illbleed was cancelled without much explanation.
Virtua Cop 3
Some of the best light gun arcade games ever produced were the Virtua Cop games. The first two titles in the series have since become time-honoured classics, whether on the arcade, Saturn, or even the enhanced PlayStation 2 ports. Much like any of SEGA’s smash arcade hits from the ‘90s, you simply could not go wrong with Virtua Cop.
It still surprises many people, even now, that there was in fact a Virtua Cop 3 released in the arcades back in 2003 to very little fanfare. By 2003 the video game landscape had changed dramatically and Virtua Cop 3 got lost in the shuffle of the declining arcade scene. There was nothing wrong with the game at all; it was supercharged with cutting edge arcade hardware and the action was what you’d expect from a Virtua Cop, just more amped up than ever before. It didn’t help that Virtua Cop 3 never reached the home console audience.
The House of the Dead III got a much welcome Xbox conversion, but the planned Virtua Cop 3 conversion was unfortunately cancelled.
Kingdom Under Fire II
Imagine if the mind-numbing hack and slash Warriors/Musou games from Koei Tecmo actually had strategic substance, it would add much needed variety to the basic and quickly repetitive combat.
Back in the Xbox days gamers didn’t need to imagine this, as they had Kingdom Under Fire to put games like Dynasty Warriors to much overdue shame. Kingdom Under Fire was punishing yet rewarding in its demands on the player to be strategic, all while they got into the heart of truly intense combat.
At the same time, the game was also a stunning technical showcase of just how powerful the Xbox hardware was compared to its competition. Kingdom Under Fire gave players visually breathtaking fantasy war scenes which they could actively participate in, almost akin to what you could see in The Lord of the Rings film.
A sequel – Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom – followed on Xbox 360, which decided to drop all the fascinating and ambitious war strategy elements in favour of mindless hack and slash akin to the Warriors/Musou games. A proper sequel, Kingdom Under Fire II, was in the works for the Xbox 360 but cancelled. However, Kingdom Under Fire II itself remains under perpetual development hell to this very day, and is planned to eventually be released on PlayStation 4… if ever.
So what do you think of this list? Does the disappearance of Scalebound still disappoint? Are there any other games you were very much looking forward to only to find them ditched? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the section below or via the usual social channels.